Fiscal Year 2016 New Investigator Award Recipients

Posted July 24, 2018

Dr. Maria Clara Franco, Ph.D., Oregon State University
Dr. Erin Marcotte, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

The Neurofibromatosis Research Program (NFRP) utilizes the New Investigator Award (NIA) to introduce the next generation of investigators and their ideas to the NF research community. Since the first NFRP NIA in 1999, there have been 323 NIA applications received, and of those, 65 have been recommended for funding. The goal of this award mechanism is to support the continued development of promising new independent investigators or established investigators transitioning from other career fields who can bring new techniques or expertise into the field of NF research. In fiscal year 2016, there were two NIAs awarded. The research planned by these investigators addresses different NF research topic areas of interest, but both NIA researchers are bringing novel concepts to the NF research community.

Dr. Maria Clara Franco, Ph.D., Oregon State University
Dr. Maria Clara Franco
Dr. Erin Marcotte, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Dr. Erin Marcotte

Dr. Maria Clara Franco, initially an assistant scientist at the University of Central Florida, is now an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Oregon State University. Dr. Franco aims to apply her expertise in redox biology and cell metabolism to the field of NF type 2 (NF2). She was introduced to the field by Dr. Cristina Fernandez-Valle, an expert in NF2 and Schwann cell biology and a close collaborator and mentor. Dr. Franco was the first to demonstrate that tyrosine nitration, an oxidative modification to proteins that occurs in pathological and inflammatory conditions, regulates key processes of tumor cell metabolism. Using human and mouse cell culture models of NF2 in combination with intracellular cell signaling arrays and metabolic profiling, she proposes to determine the metabolic phenotype of NF2-associated schwannoma cells, then identify the signaling pathways that are regulated by tyrosine nitration and how they promote schwannoma cell proliferation and survival. If successful, Dr. Franco’s work would potentially identify key oxidized proteins and their relationship to NF2 tumorigenesis, resulting in novel therapeutic targets for NF2.

Dr. Erin Marcotte of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, is an assistant professor of pediatric epidemiology and clinical studies. She is interested in how maternal health and early childhood nutrition affect children’s cancer. Dr. Marcotte proposes to investigate the correlation between maternal folic acid during the perigestational period and its effect upon NF type 1 (NF1) cancer in their offspring. Initial studies will be conducted in a murine NF1 flox model in which varying dosages of dietary folic acid will be administered. She also proposes to conduct a pilot epidemiologic clinical study in which environmental, genetic, and nutritional information will be collected from NF1 families in order to understand how these factors modify risk for NF1-related tumors. Dr. Marcotte is one of the first in the field of NF research to investigate whether maternal intake of folic acid affects risk of NF1-related tumors in offspring. As such, findings from this study have the potential to lead to a better understanding of NF1 etiology and the advancement of new therapies or tumor prevention.


Public and Technical Abstracts: Nitrated Proteins as a Target for Drug Development in Neurofibromatosis Type 2

Public and Technical Abstracts: Environmental and Nutritional Risk Factors for NF1-Related Tumors

Top of Page

Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022